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Lutz hits reverse to help drive GM into new era
General Motors gets ready to emerge from bankruptcy tonight on 100 not out
10 Jul 2009
THE 100-year-old General Motors Corp is set to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy tonight when CEO Fritz Henderson is expected to announce the sale of the company’s best assets to ‘New GM’.
And in a shock twist, GM vice-chairman and senior advisor Bob Lutz, 77, is reported to be ready to ditch retirement plans and stay on with the new-look company.
Both announcements are expected to come at a press conference called for 9am Detroit time (11pm AEST Friday) at GM’s Detroit headquarters, where Mr Henderson will be joined by new chairman, former AT&T phone company CEO Edward Whitacre.
The Detroit Free Press says one-time fighter pilot Mr Lutz has reversed plans to retire at the end of the year to stay on in some capacity.
Quoting sources close the company, the newspaper reports that Mr Henderson will announce the re-appointment of the so-called ‘car czar’, who previously worked for Chrysler.
Born when GM was just 24 years old, Mr Lutz is best known in Australia for championing Holden products and expertise, leading to export programs for the Monaro as the Pontiac GTO and Commodore as the Pontiac G8.
Left: GM CEO Fritz Henderson. Below: New GM Co chairman Edward Whitacre jun.
Mr Lutz announced in February that he would relinquish control of GM’s product development in April before retiring fully at the end of the year, joining his fellow long-time GM warhorse, Richard Wagoner, on the golf course.
The speedy emergence of GM from bankruptcy comes just days after a US bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of GM’s best assets to ‘New GM’, which will be officially called General Motors Co.
The court swept aside objections from a range of complainants, including accident litigants who wanted to appeal Monday’s sale approval by judge Robert Gerber.
The US government, which will be the majority shareholder of New GM with a 60.8 per cent share, had urged a rapid turnaround or it would withdraw billions of dollars in rescue aid, resulting in GM’s summary liquidation.
In his decision, Judge Gerber agreed that the sale had to go ahead as soon as possible to prevent GM “dying on the operating table”.
The US treasury has stated its intention to bail out of GM ownership as soon as practicable, but not before appointing several new directors to the board to oversee the company’s re-emergence.
Other major shareholders in GM Co will be the Canadian government (11.7 per cent), the United Auto Workers union health care trust (17.5 per cent) and GM bondholders (10 per cent).
While the Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC brands will be retained, Pontiac will be phased out and Hummer and Saturn sold.
As well, GM is in negotiations to sell its European operations, including Opel, Vauxhall and Saab.
GM Holden is expected to be retained and transferred to the new GM Co.
Tonight’s media conference will be a multimedia event, with Mr Henderson even getting his message out via Twitter and a web chat.
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